Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Afraid of being pregnant, again

This week Sally Heppleston shares her story of two subsequent pregnancies after the stillbirth of Hope and the fear that stops her having more babies.

I READ one of those quotes on Facebook the other day that said if you think positively, positive things will happen.
Once upon a time I would have agreed with a sentiment like that. I know better now.

During my first pregnancy, which lasted 40 weeks and 5 days, I did nothing but think positively. Sure I had mild concerns early on but I breathed a huge sigh of relief once I got to the “safe” stage. Sure I knew some babies came prematurely and that some could be born ill, but that wouldn’t happen to me. I was fit, young and healthy and everything had been textbook, so why should I imagine the ending would be any other way?

Fast forward to four days past my due date, and I couldn’t feel my baby moving. A trip to the hospital confirmed our worst fears – our baby had died and would be stillborn. Eight pounds and perfect, just dead. All the positive thoughts in the world had been for nothing – I’d got to the finish line and didn’t get to keep my prize.

My dead daughter was still inside of me and already I was thinking about having another baby. I knew that would be the only thing that would propel me forward and give me a reason to keep living.

Six months after Hope left us, I thankfully got pregnant again. Though for nine months I couldn’t help but think predominantly negative thoughts. It had happened once, why wouldn’t it happen again? I was so shocked to learn stillbirth occurs in roughly one in every 140 pregnancies and when you’ve been that one, it seems only natural that you’ll end up being that one again.

People kept telling me not to worry. They seemed to have a crystal ball that I so yearned to own and to know things about a future that I was so horribly afraid of. Their thoughts and words did little to soothe me. I had counselling and I had extra antenatal appointments, yet I was an absolute basket case for the 38 weeks I carried my son inside me..

My son defied all the negative thoughts I’d had during the pregnancy and to my amazement, arrived pink and screaming and immediately filled our lives with relief and joy. And I say relief first for a reason, as that was without doubt the first emotion that washed over us.

When our son was a year old, we fell pregnant again. This time I promised myself I’d try and be more positive and to imagine a happy ending, as we now knew it was possible.

However this pregnancy was complicated from very early on and suddenly we found ourselves facing horrible statistics and frightening possibilities. This was unchartered territory for us, as even though we’d had two full term pregnancies with two very different endings, both had been incredibly healthy.

During this pregnancy I drifted away from a lot of people in my life. The friendships that were barely surviving after Hope’s death met their match this time around. I just didn’t have the emotional reserves. We got some good news at the 23 week mark from an amniocentesis, but we still held our breath until our third baby arrived pink, healthy and screaming.

This little girl ended up arriving on the third anniversary of her big sister’s death in utero, and the day before her third birthday. We knew all along with the pregnancy’s following the same timeline, their birthdays would be close and this too added to our stress, but in the end dates didn’t matter – getting her out safe and alive was the main thing.

Sometimes I think I’d like to expand our family as I love the idea of having another tiny baby to nurture, but it is the pregnancy I’m afraid of. I can’t do it again, nor can I put my family and friends through those months of anguish. Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life, and the first time around for me it was, but when you find yourself on the wrong side of statistics, it becomes something you have to endure; a means to an end.

You get through pregnancy after loss one moment at a time, holding your breath until you cross the finish line and get your marvellous reward. You walk the tightrope of survival and somehow, I’ve now done it twice. I’ve been unlucky but I’ll never lose sight of just how lucky I’ve been also.

Sally Heppleston
Sally is a Melbourne based journalist and mother of three. Her first born daughter Hope was stillborn at 41 weeks in August 2008 after a trouble-free and healthy pregnancy. She and her husband Simon went on to have two more children after Hope passed away, Angus who is now four and Juliet, who is two. The children fill her days with chaos and her heart with love. She also runs a small community arts charity, which raises money for stillbirth research.

Sands has published a brochure on subsequent pregnancies you can find it here

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1 comment:

  1. This is excellent advice- one day at a time is exactly how I did it, too.